It’s complicated. When I think about it, I wonder how it could have come to this. Actually, it’s my own fault.
It was around 30, 40 years ago. I think that was when my craving for recognition got out of hand – and I let it have its way with me. In every way. I was sold as cheese, although no milk of any kind flowed through my veins. Or as bolognese sauce, even though I was actually chock-full of ketchup and Eastern European horse meat. And when I was a burger, they all too often called me homemade, even though I rolled into the burger joints as a deep-frozen patty packed with more antibiotics than protein. I could go on and on here – or not. After all, a prostitute doesn’t like to keep track of her nastiest johns either. However, I’ve changed. I’m not the only one who thinks so; many of my chefs and their guests agree, too. This also has the pleasant side-effect that people are less ashamed of me. Finally, a growing number of people are recognizing my, shall we say, “system relevance.”
I’m not exaggerating when I say I was born out of necessity. When exactly is something food historians can argue about. As for myself, I’d say I’m actually an old maid. 211 years old, to be exact. After all, as I see it, it was the invention of the tin can in 1810 that allowed me to take my first steps. This meant food could finally be preserved in airtight containers. A little later, good old Louis Pasteur unleashed me into my wild teenage years by inventing the process of pasteurization, which is named after him. In other words, preserving food by heating it up. In general, my fate is closely interwoven with all great scientific achievements. I also remember the invention of the refrigerated truck in the late 1870s. What a time that was! For the first time, meat could be transported hundreds of miles. What’s more, the many wars that shook the European continent until 1945 led to the perfection of cold-chain technology. However, I still had the wild and juicy boom years ahead of me. Yes, in the post-war era I really let it all hang out. In doing so, I shamelessly exploited the realities of this new age. With increasingly fewer people per household and a growing number of women desperately trying to juggle family and career, no one had much time to cook things up in a grand style anymore. The solution? Yours truly in the form of Maggi mashed potatoes, Knorr broth or Dr. Oetker vanilla pudding. But it wasn’t just the desperate housewife, chefs also began to succumb to my charms – and still do to this day.
Dude, your ego!
The same was true then that’s true today: sometimes things get taken too far. Frozen sunny-side up eggs, breaded frozen cutlets or ready-made crepes – I don’t want to be that anymore. What do I want to be instead? I think to answer this question I have to digress a bit, my apologies. Finally, for all the controversy about me, people all too often misunderstand exactly what I am. Isn’t that bit of butter the 3-star chef cuts from their butter stick just as much a convenience product as the fish sticks their pub counterpart a few streets away merely needs to heat up? And how objectionable is it, really, to pan-fry pre-cooked organic broccoli? What I’m trying to say here is if it weren’t for me, every cook would probably have to press their own cooking oil – not to mention grow the ingredients themselves – and manufacture it. Another things I’m trying to get across is that to lump me together in my many forms – even those from the past – is of no use to anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. In these times of a shortage of skilled workers and Corona, I’m the name of the game, aren’t I? Especially since many of my coaches and optimizers really put in the work. The biggest time waster in your average kitchen – the potato – is used to make organic hash browns, potato pancakes, croquettes and mashed potatoes, and this can save the ass of any understaffed chef, pardon my French. But more than just home-style potato dishes have been among my stylistic highlights as of late. As you know, I also have a lot to offer in the high-end segment, even if no one wants to talk about it. But here’s the thing. There are now manufacturers who are making me in their various ways that they just do really, really well. It is not uncommon for chefs to be working there who previously worked in the best (star) kitchens in the world. As a chef or restaurateur, if you can buy something that is better than your own product from all possible points of view – why pass me up? I know, I know. For many kitchen heroes, their own ego gets in the way. But now that they themselves are making food on the go, which is often reheated or even frozen hundreds of miles away, they may soon shed their stubborn prejudices against me. Personally, I think I’ve earned this.
And when I think about it, I’ve actually come pretty far.